Christianity 201

May 19, 2020

The God Who Touches Lepers

Melody has creating devotional writing at In Pleasant Places since January, 2013. This is her 5th time being highlighted here. Her blog started somewhat organically from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explains in her story. To read this at her blog, click the header below.

Powerful Healing, Compassionate Love – Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows…
Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I read these words by Charles Spurgeon this morning:

“What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that He was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case… Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that He will be able to heal them of their sins.”

This is the example the disciples witnessed. Jesus, with compassion and care for all. Not repulsed. Not hesitant or intimidated. Instead, He was welcoming and patient. Demonstrating that there is no lost cause; He can heal all who come to Him. A powerful physical demonstration of His ability to heal, cleanse, and restore, pointing to His greater healing of the soul for all who believe in Him.

No sin is too great, too dark, too ongoing. He cleanses all.

That’s what He died for.

And He meets us with the same compassion regardless of how dirty, shameful, and unworthy we feel – just as He met the high priest in Zechariah’s vision, rebuking his accuser, removing his iniquity (taking it on Himself ultimately on the cross), and clothing him in pure garments (Zechariah 3:1-4).

As Jesus reached out His hand to touch the leper (Luke 5:11-13), He reaches out His hand to touch and cleanse us. To pull us out of the mire and give us a new song to sing (Psalm 40:1-3). To change our lives because we are delivered into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14), freed to know Him in relationship and experience His grace in obedience. Freed to love and serve Him, walking in the newness of abundant life. With strength and peace, joy and steadfast hope.

When we are freed, may we never forget the greatness of His salvation, the depth and depravity of sin He saves us from, or our continual need of His mercy and grace – and His ability and ready willingness to meet that need (Hebrews 4:16).

May we never look at others’ chains and sicknesses with disgust, but as our Savior does – with compassion. With love. Reaching out to meet them where they are, and gently sharing our experience of a God who loves them enough to die for them, a God who will not shame them, a God who stands with ready open arms to assure them, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4).

Fellow believers, let us not be repulsed.

Let us not shame.

Let us not cast down.

Rather, let us reach out to love.

Let us listen.

Let us share of the Father’s great love and mercy, manifested on the cross of Jesus and extended very personally to those He puts in our path.

Let us share this not to change them, but to introduce them to the living God of love, hope, peace, and freedom. For each precious one who believes in Him, He will draw them out of the mire into His light. He will free them from their sin. We bring others to Jesus in love and compassion; His Spirit does the rest, just as He continues His work to free us from our sin. A work that He will bring to completion for all who are His (Philippians 1:6).

Because His healing work is that powerful and His love for us is that great.

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.”
Psalm 40:1-3


May 4, 2020

The Book of Job and Worship Song Theology

If today is controversial to some of you, remember this is Christianity 201, not 101, and look at it on that basis.

Earlier today I was preparing a response to a friend concerning the Matt Redman song, “Blessed be the Name” which contains the line, “You give and take away.”

In checking what others have written on this, I came across the blog of former pastor Dr. Paul Ellis who lives in his native Australia currently, and has also resided in Asia and California. His site is called Escape to Reality (or E2R.) There were a number of more recent articles, but on discovering that we’ve only covered this once here (rather superficially in 2011) I decided to share with you the piece which got my attention earlier this morning.

As always, send some traffic to our contributors by clicking on the header which follows.

Does God Give and Take Away?

The entire Bible is good for you, but you won’t get much out of it unless you know Jesus Christ. To understand the written word, you need to know the Living Word. Try to read the Bible without an appreciation of Jesus – who he is and what he has done – you may end up taking someone else’s medicine. Some verses will appear to contradict others and you will get confused.

In the first part of this study on God’s gifts, we looked at a sincere lady in the Bible who mistakenly believed that God gives us bad gifts like death and poverty. Today I want to look at a man who had a different problem. He believed that God gives us good gifts only to take them away again. You can probably guess that I’m talking about Job. Job had this one really bad week when his livestock were stolen, his servants were slain, and his kids were killed when a house fell on them. For some reason, Job thought God was behind his loss for he said:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (Job 1:21)

If there was ever a scripture that has led to some screwy notions about God’s character, it’s this one. Anyone who has suffered loss has probably heard this verse. It’s quoted at funerals. We sing songs about it. For some strange reason people seem to find comfort in believing that God is responsible for their loss.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love Job’s attitude. He’s saying that whatever happens in life, he’s going to praise the name of the Lord. But Job said some dumb things about God. Later on Job would come to regret his choice of words. “I spoke of things I did not understand” (Job 42:3).

The question stands: Does God give and take away?

Any picture we have of God needs to be informed by Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3). To get a good understanding of God’s character, we need to look to Jesus, not Job. Can you imagine Jesus stealing or killing? Of course not. So how is it that some people think that God was responsible for Job’s loss?

“But Paul, it’s in the Bible, it’s right there in black and white.” Let me put it to you like this. If you want the very best insight into God’s character, are you better off looking at:

(a)    Jesus, who said “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), or
(b)    Job, who had only heard of God but did not actually know him  (see Job 42:5)?

Jesus is the better choice! Jesus came to reveal God the Great Giver. Have you been given something good? Then see God as your source:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (Jas 1:17)

Who’s robbing you?

But what if you have suffered loss, like Job? He lost his health, his wealth, and his family. The temptation may be to blame God for your loss, as if God had a change of heart. But God is not fickle. He does not change like shifting shadows. He is an extraordinary giver who never takes back his gifts.

God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty – never canceled, never rescinded. (Romans 11:29, MSG)

So if God is doing the giving, who is doing the taking? Again, Jesus provides the answer:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

We ought not to be confused about these two different roles. One is a giver, the other is a taker. If you have been given something good, give thanks to God. But if you’ve been robbed, don’t blame God. He’s not behind your loss. And Satan is not his sheepdog.

Humans are spectacularly slow learners. From the beginning of human history the devil has been trying to steal or ruin everything God gave us and yet there are still some who think that God is the thief. God gave us authority over a planet and the devil took it. God gave us freedom and the devil somehow got us to choose the way of slavery. God gave us eternal life, health and glory, and we lost it all. But thank God for Jesus who took back what the devil stole.

Karma versus grace

If you think that God gives and takes away, you’ve missed the point of Jesus. Jesus came to reveal a generous Father and to destroy the work of the thief (1 John 3:8). Jesus came that we might have life to the full, not to the half.

If you think God gives and takes away, you have more faith in karma than grace. Karma says what goes around comes around. If you’re healthy now, you’ll be sick tomorrow. If you’re prospering now, poverty’s waiting around the next corner. When disappointments and hardships come, you won’t be surprised. You’ll just throw in the towel and say, “I knew it was too good to last.”

The world works according to the principle of give and take, but God just gives. The only thing he’ll take off you – if you let him – is your sin, your shame, your sickness, your worries, and your fears. He takes away those things that harm us and gives us good things that bless us.

Are you Job or David?

Both Job and David were robbed. Both were greatly distressed and surrounded by foolish men who gave bad advice. But unlike Job, David did a Jesusy-thing and took back what was stolen. Why did David fight back when Job quit? Because David “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam 30:6). In his pain David considered God’s goodness and realized that God was not behind his loss. He understood that it was not God’s will for him to suffer and, so strengthened, he fought back and prevailed.

I wish I could go back in time and get to Job before his friends did. I would say, “God didn’t kill your kids! He didn’t steal your livestock and make you sick. You’ve been robbed! The devil is having a go at you. Don’t sit there in the ashes and cry about it, get up and fight! Are you a victor or a victim?”

The church will never see victory if we think God is behind our suffering. If we think God is robbing us we won’t even resist. We’ll let the devil waltz in and plunder our families all the while singing “He gives and takes away.”

Funny, but I can’t imagine Jesus or David doing that.

 

March 24, 2020

He Does Not Afflict Willingly

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.
– Lamentations 3:33 (NKJV)

It is part of the amazing power of the Christian scriptures that passages will simply come to life at times when we need them most. Scripture portions that perhaps we rushed through or more or less ignored take on greater significance at pivotal times in our lives.

Thus was the case this week as I was housecleaning boxes and boxes of old correspondence, and found this selection from Lamentations 3 on a church bulletin. The above verse is NKJV as was the church bulletin, what follows is The Message:

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times…

31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
in throwing roadblocks in the way

Verse 33 was the one which really jumped out at me. Here it is in some other translations:

■ He definitely doesn’t enjoy affliction, making humans suffer. (CEB)
■ He does not enjoy causing people pain. He does not like to make anyone unhappy. (ERV)
■ He does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone (God’s Word)
[I]t is not the desire or way of God’s heart to hurt and grieve the children of men. (The Voice)

This stands in contrast to the theology of some people, that God is angry with us and waiting to pour out his wrath on people.

Some might suggest that this verse goes too far the other way! I compiled the various translations using Bible Gateway, but when you go to Bible Hub, you are always offered parallel passages. Perhaps reading all of these gives better context into the nature of God vis-a-vis his dealings with us in seemingly difficult circumstances:

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.
 – Hebrews 12:10 (NLT)

The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
– Job 37:23 (NIV)

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
– Psalm 119:71 (NLT)

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
– Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV)

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
– 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)

I’ll leave it there for you to consider. Comments are always welcome.

 

November 17, 2019

The Principle of Accommodation

Note: There are no specific scripture references today. You’re encouraged to search for texts related to the section in bullet points below.

Bruxy Cavey is the Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto, Canada.

■ This subject was something I was aware of in scripture, but didn’t realize there was a formal term for it. The first section is taken from the fourth message in a series called Origins, and the section quoted has been greatly abridged. Watch starting at 8:24. (To 15:01.)

with Bruxy Cavey

Religious sacrifice is our invention that God accommodates and uses for a season and then eventually enters and ends through Jesus. This raises again the principle of accommodation…. The principle of accommodation is an accepted Biblical understanding — there’s really no debate about this one, there is overwhelming Biblical evidence — that God accommodates human practices or decisions or desires in how he works with us. God made us in his image and his likeness and he honors his image in us and so once God made people instead of pets, He then partners with those people even when some of the things that we want are not His initial will. There’s lots of examples of this in scripture

  • Kings — It was Israel who said, “We want to have an earthly king.” And God said specifically, “It’s not my will, in fact I take that personally, that’s a rejection of me… That’s a bad idea.”… [But then he says,] “Okay, let’s give them kings.” …He uses the kingship of Israel to teach them things… If you were to jump into the middle of the story, you would think God is really into kings. But if you zoom out, you learn that God never really wanted kings in the first place.
  • Physical Temple — God said, “I want you to make a tent as a meeting place because a tent is portable.” Portability is part of what it teaches us about God. And it’s David, one of the kings that shouldn’t exist, who says, “I get to live in a castle. If you’re the king of the universe, you should have a castle, too.”
  • The Law – the Ten Commandments — Living by a list of rules instead of the heart relationship that we had in the garden of Eden (and that Jesus brings us back to.)
  • Divorce — In Matthew 19, Jesus is having the same debate with the religious leaders – the Pharisees – about how in the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24) Moses commands a certain way of getting a divorce… Jesus changes their language when they say, “Why did Moses command divorce?” Jesus says, “He permitted it … because your hearts were hard.”
  • Slavery — …Not God’s will but he works within that model for a season.
  • Animal sacrifice — [part of the introduction re. Genesis chapter four.]

…This is a harm-reduction model. [God says,] “You’re going to run headlong and do some damaging things…I’ll meet you where you’re at and at least try to mitigate some of the harm you’ll cause yourself.” …And then Jesus comes in and leads us into a New Covenant and says, ‘I’ll give you a better way, and I’ll give you the power of the Spirit to help you live up to that ideal.

■ This section is taken from week five of the same series, a question-and-answer wrap up week. The video for this section begins at 27:06 (This section is quoted more verbatim.)

Q: Couldn’t the principle of accommodation become a dangerous slippery slope, allowing us to justify almost anything?

A: The principle of accommodation [is the belief that] God often enters human designs, human impulses, human wishes, such as the desire to have earthly kings, the desire to have an earthly temple, the desire for divorce; there’s all kinds of things… But God often enters those desires, those impulses, and He uses them and He governs them and He makes them his own. He accommodates us as image-bearers of the divine.

So someone asks couldn’t the principle of accommodation become a dangerous slippery slope, allowing us to justify almost anything, and the answer to this is yes. Absolutely.

Just like grace.

See, just because something can be abused doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. When the Bible teaches something, we should not shy away from it just because it’s dangerous.

The Bible clearly teaches grace; that we are saved under the new covenant by simply trusting that it’s true. And this grace should so change our hearts and help us see how much God loves us that we live a moral life, we live a loving life,  because we want to not because we have to. We want to get closer to this God that loves us that much and is so gracious toward us that it changes our hearts and everything we do is a want to not a have to.

But is it possible for that to be abused?

Absolutely. Right from the very beginning of Christianity there were Christians who abused grace. Who said, “Well, if I’m just saved because of faith, then it doesn’t matter how I live. I’ll just go an live however I want.” And it’s interesting, the early church didn’t say, “Wow; we better stop preaching grace because it can be abused. We better preach grace plus law just to make sure we keep people in line.” No, the Apostle Paul doesn’t take that approach, in Galatians, in 1 Corinthians, etc. He just continues to preach grace all the more to help people’s hearts catch a picture of it and become transformed.

 

 

 

 

November 5, 2019

God’s Word Will Be Twisted

by Russell Young

I have spent many years trying to get people to understand that more than the sacrificial offering of Christ is needed to enter God’s eternal kingdom. Unfortunately, many teachers enjoy presenting the cross as the full gospel message, and those listening like to hear that message. Such understanding takes all responsibility from the confessor and avoids the necessity to teach the less pleasant issues of God’s righteous requirements, sanctification through obedience, and judgment for disregarding the holiness and majesty of God.

The God of the Old Testament, who was to be “feared” (Deut 19:12) has been turned into a beneficent grandfather. The God who brought nations to destruction because of their idolatrous practices and their failure to humble themselves before him and to obey his commands seems to have abandoned the need for obedience and of separation from the world. The God who demanded righteous living has made provision for his grace to cover all ungodly practices, many would say.

Isaiah has recorded, “The earth will be completely emptied and looted. The LORD has spoken! The earth mourns and dries up, and the crops waste away and wither. Even the greatest people on earth waste away. The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin. They are destroyed by fire and only a few are left.” (Isa 24:4−6 NLT) When the end comes, the earth’s destruction will have been caused by twisting or altering God’s Word.

Isaiah’s revelation should alarm many who have neglected the fullness of the gospel or who have altered its teachings. The world will not end because of the evil that pervades it; it will be ended because those entrusted with the Word will have distorted it and made it ineffective and unable to transform lives. God has not changed. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. He is sovereign and will establish his holy kingdom.

The end will come when God’s Word has been so twisted that truth, and with it hope, no longer exists. The Lord asked the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8) Faith may be found, but according to Isaiah’s prophesy, it will not be established in truth.

Where are we left concerning these words? A prophecy is a prophecy and it is absolute truth. That is, the Word will have been twisted beyond the Lord’s recognition by the end. Can this be stopped? No! It will not! The false “gospel” being promoted will have lost its power to save. God must be appreciated for his holiness and majesty regardless of teachings that suggest God’s overwhelming tolerance and forgiveness for ungodly practices and neglect of Christ’s lordship. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Mt 13:41)

What is the “more” than the cross that completes the gospel message? The offering of Christ redeemed the believer from his or her sin so that they might be given the Spirit. (Gal 3:14) Obedience to the Spirit will “fully meet the righteous requirements of the law.” (Rom 8:4) Judgment will fall on those who reject the Spirit’s leadership and live according to the sinful nature. (Gal 6:8) Christ, who has given his life to justify the confessor’s past sins (2 Pet 1:9; Heb 9:15), who has lived in a human body without sin and understands the temptations of the flesh (Heb 2: 17−18), and who has provided his Spirit for victory (Gal 3:14), holds the keys to death and Hades (Rev 1:18) and he will judge everyone according to the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) He will determine each person’s fate.

The righteous requirements of the law must be met, and they will be “fully met by those who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4) Christ did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them. (Mt 5:17) He did that for himself in the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, and, as Spirit, he will fulfill them through his presence in the believer (Col 1:27) who has pledged and lived under his lordship (Rom 10:9). He provided his Spirit because the law, having been weakened by the sinful nature of humankind, was powerless to accomplish its purpose. (Rom 8:3) The law of the Spirit of life has replaced the covenant law. (Rom 8:2, 7:6)

“Eternal salvation” is not fully accomplished through the sacrificial offering of the Son of Man on the cross; it comes “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13), and it is to be worked out, completed, with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) The Lord did not finish his work for people through his death on the cross but rose to justify (Rom 4:25) the willing through his Spirit. God’s Word will be twisted, and his truths will be lost.


This was Russell Young’s last regular column in this alternate-Tuesday slot, though his writing may appear at various times in the future. He’s working on his next book and doing research. His current book is now available through a different publisher, and wherever you buy books, they should be able to access it at a better price. We thank him for his contributions here at C201.


Eternal Salvation - Russell Young - 2Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”– Really? (Lettra Press) 

Text citations above include italics added. 

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link

 

 

October 13, 2019

Jehovah Names of God

Today I’m repeating something from nine years ago, before we made it a house rule that posts here would generally be rooted in a particular scripture passage. So while we’re not addressing this passage directly — we have elsewhere — but it does tie in.

ESV.Ex.34.5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

I have to confess, I’m not deeply absorbed in the statistics for this particular blog. Today I decided to see what the all-time most clicked things were, and this one came in 2nd. The blog is still available, but has been inactive for a couple of years.

Here it is as it appeared in November, 2010:


I’m always amazed at the number of people who haven’t — somewhere — encountered teaching on the various names given to God beginning with Jehovah and followed by a word which describes an aspect of God’s character and nature.

Pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia posted these on his blog, and I thought it would be good to reproduce them here as well. For those who want to dig a little deeper; the second-last one is also the title of a very old hymn, which is how I came to learn of these names while still a teenager.

Genesis 22 – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord, my Provider

Exodus 15 – Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals

Exodus 17 – Jehovah Nissi – The Lord, my banner

Exodus 31 – Jehovah M’Kaddesh – The Lord who sanctifies

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Chereb – The Lord, my Sword

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Magen – The Lord, my Shield

Judges 6 – Jehovah Shalom – The Lord, my Peace

1 Samuel 1 – Jehovah Sabaoth – Lord of the hosts of heaven

Psalm 3 – Jehovah Kahbodi – The Lord, my Glory

Psalm 10 – Jehovah Malech-Olam – The Lord who is king forever

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Chezeq – The Lord, my strength

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Misqabbi – The Lord, my strong tower

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Naheh – The Lord who smites the enemy

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Seli – The Lord, my Rock

Psalm 20 – Jehovah Hoshea – The Lord, my Savior

Psalm 23 – Jehovah Rohi – The Lord, my Shepherd

Psalm 24 – Jehovah Milchamma – The Lord, mighty in battle

Psalm 27 – Jehovah Ori – The Lord, my Light

Psalm 89 – Jehovah Gannan – The Lord who is my defense

Psalm 91 – Jehovah Machsi – The Lord my Refuge

Psalm 98 – Jehovah Hamelech – The Lord, my King

Isaiah 40 – Jehovah Bara – The Lord, my Creator

Isaiah 49 – Jehovah Goel – The Lord, my Redeemer

Jeremiah 16 – Jehovah Ma’oz – The Lord, my Fortress

Jeremiah 23 – Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord, my righteousness

Ezekiel 48 – Jehovah Shammah – The Lord who is present


Did you read the list? You’re not done yet.

Take a moment to really consider these aspects of God’s nature: Provider, healer, battle flag, sanctifier, sword, shield, peace, Lord of heaven, glory, king forever, strength, strong tower, victor over enemies, rock, savior, shepherd, great in battle, light, defense, refuge, King, creator redeemer, fortress, righteousness, always present.

Lastly repeat this list — out loud if you’re in a place that’s possible — with the word my in front of each adjective: My provider, my healer, my battle flag… etc.

October 6, 2019

God: What He Did was Who He Is

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. – Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

In my formative spiritual years, I remember hearing this:

We worship God for who he is.
We praise God for what he has done.

For some, the distinction may not be entirely clear as when we substitute the word thank as in:

We worship God for who he is.
We thank God for what he has done.

I was taught this in what we might call, for lack of a better term, an ecclesiastical setting; in other words, the intent of the speaker(s) was to communicate the difference between simply saying “thanks” versus bowing our hearts in total adoration for who God is; his power, might, majesty and… wait for it… his merciful love.

I get that.

But I think it also needs to be said that, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, it was part of God’s plan all along to make a way of atonement.

God didn’t simply wake up one morning (!) and say, “This sacrificial system isn’t working, we need to try something else.”

The broad story arc of the Bible points to the coming of a Savior. He didn’t simply know that this is where the story was going to lead, rather he had planned out that the opportunity for humankind to experience forgiveness that was both full and free was the direction of the story — the plot line — from the beginning. Dispensationalists call this “the age of grace.” I would call it the “age of atonement.” We went from having to cover our sins to having our sins be covered.

And here is my point:

This whole plan is a reflection not only of what God did — though it is certainly that — but also indicative of who God is.

His actions and his act of mercy toward we who are sinners are indistinguishable from his nature.

He is a God of love.

He is a God of mercy.

He always has been.

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Exodus 34:6-7a (NLT)

When we consider God’s nature, we often end up at the big O-words — omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — and can forget he is loving and merciful and in his ways that are far above our ways has devised a plan none of us could ever imagine.

For that we offer thanks; we offer worship; we offer ourselves.


Here are some thoughts on thanks from Ruth’s worship set this morning:

 

September 30, 2019

God’s Reign is Timeless | Circumstances and Outcomes

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

Six months ago I introduced a blog which was new to us, called Hounded by Heaven, and as we did then we’re featuring two short devotional posts with good insights. Sometimes brevity is sufficient to make a point! Click on the individual titles to read at the source.

Same Calamity, Different Outcome

When the whirlwind passes, the wicked are no more, but the righteous are secure forever. (Proverbs 10:25, HCSB)

The Tyndale Commentary summarizes Prov. 10:24-25 as the insecurity of the wicked, and we could add, the security of the righteous.

What struck me here is that both the wicked and the righteous experience the same calamity: a whirlwind, and of course this is a calamity. A whirlwind destroys everything in its path, or that is what we expect anyway. When the whirlwind passes, the wicked get what we expect, destruction. This is not a surprise.

Don’t forget that in Proverbs, the wicked are those who do not love God, who do not follow his ways and encourage others not to follow or love God also.

What is surprising is that after the whirlwind passes, the righteous are secure forever. We know that Solomon is writing metaphorically, because in a literal sense, nothing is secure forever, but when it comes to the righteous, even a whirlwind cannot bring them ultimate harm, because they belong to God.

The wicked and the righteous experience the same calamity, but in the calamity, the righteous are secure; the wicked are not.

King of the Ages

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”(1 Timothy 1:17, NRSV)

Paul closes the first portion of his letter to Timothy with a prayer of praise to God, and what a prayer it is!

To the King of the ages, he begins. Up to the time that Paul wrote, and well beyond, even down to our present day, kings (and caesars) would pop up on the scene, rule dictatorially for awhile, and then die, or be killed in battle, or murdered—none of them lasted.  God is not like a human king, God is the King of the ages, the King of eternity, the King who was present before time began, is present and active during human history, and will be King, long after all earthly kings have died and been forgotten.  He was King, he is King, he will be King, to eternity future. It is this King that we worship, this King that we seek daily to please with how we live our lives, and this King with whom we will spend eternity.

To this eternal King be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen!


Have you ever felt you had a devotional idea within you that you’d like to share with readers here? Send your idea or a draft of the finished devotional to Paul c/o searchlight [at] nexicom.net.

September 27, 2019

Don’t Speculate as to What God Cares About

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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This week we discovered Lauren Jensen and choosing which of three articles to share with you, decided this might be something someone here needs to hear. As always, click the header below to read this on her site.

His Ways Are Not Our Ways: Why We Need to Hear that God Cares

 

What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:4 ESV

I used to fuel myself 12 hours of the day on coffee and caffeine. When my sweet friend would remark, “I don’t know how you get it all done,” I would shrug and smile and reply that I just had a lot of energy. Simple, stupid Lauren.

After embarking on a life sans caffeine, I realized that I actually have a very limited amount of energy. The only way to fill the energy tank is to simply rest, preferrably sleep. On top of that, I am also incredibly anemic.

In the face of finite energy and resources, I have adopted the phrase, “I don’t care.” The truth is I can’t care. I only have so much time and energy to use and I can’t waste it on things that don’t matter in the long run. Ahhh- that’s why kids tattle and adults don’t. We just don’t have the energy.

Anyway, I’m guessing I’m not alone on this one. With the world pulling us in every direction, we can’t possibly care about it all. And I think that’s partly due to the Fall, but also partly because we are dust.

Being weak clay with finite resources, it is impossible to conceive of a God of infinite resources. Of infinite caring. And phrases creep in that make God more like us. Phrases like “God doesn’t care about that.”

So in well-meaning Christian love we tell people that “God doesn’t care” about the color of their hair, the clothes they wear to church, if they even go to church, where they live, where their kids go to school…

Really, it’s a curious and dangerous thing when we start to determine and speak to what God cares about. Especially when He is quite clear that He is interested in every detail of His creation.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

Matthew 10:30 ESV

“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no man is…

Job 38:25 ESV

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the does?

Job 39:1 ESV

It’s really just a matter of reading Job 38 and 39. It’s watching closely as Jesus holds the little children close and promises the kingdom of heaven to “such as these.” It’s paying attention when God commands His people to remember the foreigners and orphans and widows. It is pausing to contemplate the millions of moments in each generation, the sequence of genes in each person along the way that led to the creation of you. Oh please please please pause and think about all the things that occured so you could occur. You are so precious. So important.

God cares about the small things and the big things. We don’t have a God who cares nothing for anything. Honestly, we have a God who cares so much about everything we can’t even imagine it.

And here is why I’m making a deal out of this: the moment we begin to determine what God does or does not care about, even in an attempt to be spiritually encouraging, we open mental gates to thoughts that if God does not care about that, then He probably doesn’t care about this. How many people don’t pray about things because they mistakenly think that God is busy with more important things and He won’t care about this? How many people, me included, have felt so small and insignificant that God probably doesn’t care about what we are going through?

How can we determine what God cares about when He repeatedly shows us in His word that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways?

And those little mistakes, the ones we are tempted to say God doesn’t care about, have been covered by the blood of Jesus. This doesn’t mean they are no big deal. It means they are forgiven. We are free. Our chains aren’t ignored- they are broken.

And while I don’t recall God saying in the Bible that He didn’t care about __________ (I could be wrong — feel free to refresh my memory), there are certain things He regards higher than others.

Appearances, facades, hypocrisy are not disregarded by God. On the contrary, His talk of bearing fruit and white-washed tombs and being ambassadors and putting on Christ indicates He feels very strongly about what our lives look like because often they reveal what is happening inside us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” (Proverbs 3:5) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”(Matthew 22:37) “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19) The hearts of His people rank number one; hearts that are turned to Him, humble hearts of flesh. Souls satisfied and cleansed in the blood of Christ.

Does God care about the color of your hair? The number of tattoos on your body? What you wear to church? Where you spend your Sunday mornings or Saturday nights? Your lineage, gender, culture? Absolutely. You are His child and He loves you. Will any of those things separate you from His love? Never.

We have some serious freedom, friends. We aren’t under the yolk of a bully God who will punish or disregard us with every misstep. We are in the hand of a loving God who desires a relationship with us. Who wants our obedience because it means the best for us in our relationship with Him and others. Who uses our every foible and failure to point to His glory and mercy and faithfulness.

In a world limited by the caring capacity of its inhabitants, we can’t hear this enough: God cares. He cares about it all. He cares about you. God is good.


 

June 16, 2019

God’s Picture of Father Love

AMP Mark 4 : 2a And He taught them many things in parables (illustrations or comparisons put beside truths to explain them)…

PHILLIPS Mark 4 : 1 – 2a Then once again he began to teach them by the lake-side. A bigger crowd than ever collected around him so that he got into the little boat on the lake and sat down, while the crowd covered the ground right up to the water’s edge. He taught them a great deal in parables…

When you look at the ministry of Jesus there are at least three things that separate Him from all others who came before and all others who have come after:

  • Miracles
  • Questions
  • Parables

While all the parables contain more depth than we see in the first reading, one that is especially rich is the one we call The Parable of the Lost Son, or The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Six years ago, for Father’s Day our pastor spoke on this parable and as always happens with this particular section of Jesus’ teaching, there is always a new takeaway waiting if you look for it.

Before we gloss over this point too quickly, let me say that we need to approach familiar Bible passages with the attitude of expectancy. I do this every year at Christmas and Easter and I am never disappointed if I have my radar set to look for a new insight or revelation.

I knew of a pastor once who would begin some of his messages with a prayer that ended, “…and God if there’s anyone here who feels they’ve heard this all before, help them to know that your desire is to write this on the tablets of their heart.” (And that was before computer tablets!) Some messages we simply need to hear over and over and over and over and over and over again.

But that’s not what I mean here. I’m talking about where we haven’t heard it all before because there is so much depth to the passage in question. I’ve said that I think all scripture is like that to some degree, but in some passages, the potential message outlines are infinite.

I am continually fascinated by the concept of scripture as a multifaceted jewel which reveals, refracts and reflects with each slight turn. The geometric properties of a large diamond mean that each face is interconnected directly to several others, which in turn are attached to others.

Christianity 201, 1/24/13

At church that Sunday, the takeaway had to do with the father in the story running to meet his returning, contrite, repentant son. Our pastor pointed out that traditionally, because of the son’s shame in losing his money to Gentiles, the town would gather to shame him as he re-entered. But instead, the father runs to meet him, hug him, kiss him and give him a ring.

NIV Luke 15: 20b … But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Usually, the focus here has to do with the way in which the father runs to meet the son, that he was essentially shaming himself by lifting his tunic to run to do so. He thereby identifies with his son’s shame, his indignity, his disgrace.

But there’s a parallel between this event and what happens minutes later in the story where the father has to take shorter but equally important walk to meet his other son, the elder brother.

The Voice Luke 15 : 28b The older brother got really angry and refused to come inside, so his father came out and pleaded with him to join the celebration.

The NLT has “begged” instead of “pleaded.” Young’s Literal Translation has “entreated.” This was not a 30-second conversation. This other young man required convincing; he needed to be persuaded.

So the parallel is that the father leaves his party of which he is the host, and leaves his home to go outside and beg the older son to come in. He is identifying here with the elder son’s appraisal of the injustice of the situation, his feeling that his performance based approach has counted for nothing.

And in terms of performance, Jesus was sinless. Jesus’ life was characterized by the injustice of the condemnation of an innocent man. Jesus had to leave the comparative ‘party’ of heaven to come to us. Jesus suffered the indignity of the cross…

…I grew up in The Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada under the ministry of Dr. Paul B. Smith. Each Sunday night as the choir sang Just As I Am, Dr. Paul would remind everyone that, “If you take one step toward God, God will take ten steps toward you.”

So imagine how much the speed at which God will move to embrace and welcome and restore you if you yourself come home running…

May 27, 2019

Samson Was Not Akin to a Greek or Roman God

Today we return to the writing of Mark DuPré who is an associate pastor, a film professor, a writer and a musician. There are more good articles on his devotional page.

Samson: The Lord, the Man, and the Myth

Judges 13:4-5 [God to Samson’s mother] “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Judges 16:17 [Samson to Delilah] “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Judges 16:19-20 Then [Delilah] lulled [Samson] to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

The story of Samson has somehow slipped from out of the Bible and into legend. Samson has become a kind of ancient Greek or Roman god, who has super-human strength and abilities, and gets defeated by his own hubris. Part of the “myth” of Samson (as opposed to the Bible story about him] is that his strength was in his hair. If we believe that, we’re making the same mistake Delilah and the Philistines made.

Numbers 6:1-20 tells about the Nazarite vow. In brief, it says no wine, no cutting of hair, no contamination through contact with dead things, and a call to holy living. If we read Samson’s story in Judges 13-16, we see that Samson did the opposite of all these things, breaking every last condition of the vow and more.

Yet as with most stories about Bible characters, the story is really more about the Lord. First, it was the Lord’s strength and the Lord’s presence with Samson that accounted for his strength, not something as random as the follicles on his head. Notice Judges 16:20, when Delilah cut his hair and the Philistines captured him: “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” How regrettable for Samson that he didn’t realize this, and how foolish for us not to see that the arm of the Lord is greater than any aspect of a person’s physical body.

Secondly, a wrong understanding of where Samson’s strength came from can make God seem arbitrary, or the story like a fairy tale. Let’s not be confused. God didn’t invest Samson’s hair with anything. The Lord “left him” when he broke the last condition of his vow. God still gave Samson strength when he drank, caroused with prostitutes, and touched dead things, contaminating himself spiritually. No, the Lord waited until every condition was broken before taking His strength away. And then we see how gracious the Lord is to restore His strength when nature simply took its course, and Samson’s life began to reverse the pattern of his sin.

How patient God is! How slow to anger! How gracious He is to keep working with us, demonstrating His faithfulness to us by His mercies toward Samson. Let’s leave the myth of Samson behind, and embrace the story of God’s great faithfulness, patience and love that we find there.

Prayer: You were so patient with Samson, not bringing any kind of judgment against him until he violated the last part of the covenant. Help me to be encouraged to keep loyal to my covenant with You, thanking you with my obedience to Your word.

 

October 25, 2018

Nothing is Escaping God’s Notice

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Editor’s Note: Some of you know I like to cut to the chase here and don’t like devotional studies which begin with a long set-up or illustration. In this case however, the song which Clarke begins by quoting echoes the view of many people, especially in a world where some people know all they think they know from popular music. You probably know people who subscribe to the view expressed in the lyrics.

So with Clarke away this week, I chose this particular devotional from his personal archives, which appears here for the first time.

Genesis 6-8 Up Close and Personal

by Clarke Dixon

It is not a song that lasts very long around me, I change the station if I hear it on the radio, and move the song on if it comes onto my wife’s iPod. It has not even made it onto mine of course. The verses I quite like as they inspire us to a greater sense of harmony and the ideal of peace:

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting is for

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And it’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves
It’s the heart of every man

All very nice and all but what ruins the song for me (beyond a lack of power chords) is the chorus:

And God is watching us, God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance

Now there is wishful thinking and I suspect there are many who wishfully are thinking this. It seems God our Heavenly Father has been replaced by God our heavenly great-grandfather, whose eyesight is failing, and who cannot tell what the great-grandchildren are up to because their lives are so far removed from his. But they can always depend on him for unconditional love and a hug. Methinks this is how some people want to see God, or better, how they want God to see them;from a distance.

This is not the case in Genesis 6:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5 NIV)

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6:11, 12 NIV)

No heavenly cataracts here, nor a need for God to squint like I did for three years in school before I finally admitted to needing glasses. God saw what was going on, and his remarkable vision had disastrous consequences for most earthlings:

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6, 7 NIV)

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:13 NIV)

The story of the flood in Genesis teaches us some valuable lessons, most of which many would rather not learn.

  1. Sin and violence does not escape the notice of God. I was and am blessed by a mother who knows her Bible. The Biblical truth most quoted my Mum as I was growing up? “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Good to know and too bad more don’t know it.
  2. God has the right to be judge. All too often people will try to be the judge of God and his decision to send the flood, making it out to be a cosmic genocide. If you or I had done it, it would be a condemnable genocide, and a violence that would grieve God deeply (note Genesis 9:6 from the flood story). But in the hands of God it is justice brought swiftly, which brings us to our next point –
  3. God owes us nothing. All human living is lived in a time and as a result of God’s grace and mercy. We live because God withholds His just judgement. God does not owe us another day, nor an hour, nor even a second. Each breath, each heartbeat is a sign of God’s grace. It is not owed to you. Eternal life in Jesus is grace and mercy taken to the extreme. That is not owed to you either.

Some may object that here we find the God of the Old Testament and that now we should focus on the God of the New Testament, as if God’s eyes are now failing and He is watching us from a distance today. Sorry, God does not change. Here we might consider the rainbow which is very interesting in what we learn from it. Most of us think of it as a reminder to us that God will keep his covenant promise to never again send a flood like he did. This is correct, but in fact we find that twice it is emphasized as a reminder to God!

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16 NIV)

Do we grasp the implication of this? No, it does not point to God’s memory as if it could fail any more than his sight. It points to the fact that from the flood on God still sees the sin and violence of the world, it still grieves him, and he would still be right to just put a sudden stop to it. What is stopping God from doing so is not that he is watching us from a distance as some sort of cosmic great-grandfather who isn’t really seeing what is going on, but because he is watching us with the heart of a father, full of love and grace, bound by a father’s promise. Of course he is not a human father that he might fail, he is God that he shall follow through. God is watching us closely, but his eyes are full of love.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

 

September 12, 2018

God Affirms, Fulfills and Activates His Promises

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is our fourth time with Steven C. Mills at the website, Steve’s Bible Meditations. Click the title below to read at source.

God’s YES Man – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—did not become ‘Yes and no’; on the contrary, a final ‘Yes’ has come in Him. For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him. Therefore, the ‘Amen’ is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory. Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us. He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:19-22, HCSB).

Do you ever get down and depressed because you feel like you’ve got so much to handle and you just can’t do it all? And then you get all locked up inside and you don’t do anything. I call it “gridlock of the soul.” Why even try, you wonder.

It seems like life is saying “No!” to you, “No you can’t. No you can’t. No, no, no!”

When life keeps telling you “No,” there is something you can do to escape soul gridlock.

Open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 1:19-22 and read, re-read, and read these verses again until you realize that when life seems to be telling you “No,” God is telling you “Yes!”

And not just “Yes,” but an emphatic “Yes,” God’s big “YES!”

God’s “Yes” is a Big “YES!” because God doesn’t just acknowledge His promises, He affirms His promises!  God doesn’t just make promises! God fulfills His promises! And then God activates His promises in your life!

All God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s “Yes” Man!

God speaks His promises into existence and then applies them to our lives through the redemptive power of the cross of Christ and the sustaining power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In other words, God’s affirmation is not a “Yes” that just says it’s okay or gives permission or indicates agreement. Rather, God’s “Yes” is a substantive “Yes!” It affirms and confirms the truth of His promises! And it enables and empowers us to live God’s truth!

When God says “Yes,” He does something about it. He acts on it. He not only gives His promise but He equips us to receive His promises and accomplish His will.

Now I’m not suggesting that in your life there won’t be times of trouble or that you won’t have times when you feel down and defeated. But, I am sure that if you are feeling down and defeated, the source of your depression is not God but Satan, the evil one.

So, you can be God’s “Yes” Man or “Yes” Woman! When you live your life according to God’s “Yes” not Satan’s “No.”

Don’t prolong disappointment and despondency with Satan’s deceitful and deceptive “No.”

Confront despair with God’s Big “Yes!”

God affirms all His promises to us through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, once and for all, which is reinforced to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit, enabling us to accomplish God’s will in our daily lives.

I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NLT)

May 20, 2018

As We Address Different Aspects of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV Ps 61:1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.

Today we’re introducing another writer for the first time. The site is titled Two Years of Psalms. Click the title below to get you onto the page and then navigate from there to other articles.

Ps 61: 4 Praising Hats

Many people have come across the writing of Edward de Bono on the notion of “Six Thinking Hats.” The idea, which is presented within many other paradigms as well (e.g. Myers-Briggs), is that we put ourselves in particular points of reference to consider various aspects of a question, decision, or topic, in order to ensure that we’ve addressed relevant factors which might lay outside of our normal patterns of thinking.

In Psalm 61, we get a model of “4 Praising Hats”—as the psalmist takes us through several aspects of the character of God, in order to ensure that our faith and our praise is equally well-rounded and our approach to God is comprehensive.

In v.2, there is a cry to the HEAVENLY CREATOR, the one who hears us even from the ends of the earth, and who exists above us all.

• In v.3, we address the MIGHTY WARRIOR, the ultimate protector and defender who is the very definition of strength.

• In v.4, we appeal to the GRACIOUS RULER, the one who opens the borders of His Kingdom and offers sanctuary to the refugee who would choose to flee to Him.

• In v.5, we acknowledge the INTIMATE PARENT, who, like a mother hen, spreads open His wings to permit us hatchlings to gather near to Him, sheltered, nourished, and loved.

This is the Lord to whom prayers are offered (v.1), who listens (v.5) and acts (v.6-7).

If we are to join the psalmist in making “music to your name for ever” (v.8), we can do so only if our view of God is as fully-orbed as possible.

Of course, there are many other names and images of God (shepherd, husband, deliverer, lion, lamb, etc.) and it can only benefit our faith and our praise to explore each of these facets of His nature and character deeply, regularly as we seek to live lives that bring Him and honor and glory, and as we turn to Him in repentance, faith, and worship.

 

May 6, 2018

We Love in Return

This was one of those ‘how-did-we-not-know-about-this-before?’ types of discovery. Melody has been writing devotions at In Pleasant Places since January, 2013. Her blog started somewhat organically from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explains in her story. To read this at her blog, click the title below.

Worshipping Our Uncontained God

You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar,
and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it,
for I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 26:1

This command obviously has application to us not worshipping a different god. But there is also application to our worship of the true God. To worship Him, not an image made to “represent” Him.

I think we often like to have things in front of us that we can see. Things we can visibly draw near to. But with this command, I wonder if perhaps God intentionally did not want to appear bound by our perceptions or defined by our understanding.

When we look at how these other (false) gods are portrayed in Scripture, they are encapsulated and defined within those man-made images. Our God, the true and living one, vibrant with life and energy, mighty in power, actively and creatively at work in all things – He is not like these. He will not be brought down to a man-made definition, created by our hands alongside items of common purpose.

He is holy. Sovereign. He is Creator. Even the most brilliant elements known to man cannot convey His glory.

God instructed His people to build not an image of Him, but an Ark to hold the stone tablets on which He carved His covenant. An ark containing tangible elements of His faithfulness and the holiness of His law, covered with the mercy seat upon which His presence would rest when He came to meet with them.

It was a meeting place.

But our God of the universe was not contained there. He is greater than that. An image cannot hold the One who upholds the universe by the word of His power and calls out each star by name, ensuring not one is lost.

So while we might look upon paintings and other artwork depicting various accounts in Scripture, our Christ at different points in His life and death, and while God might use these to stir our hearts to greater understanding of Him, we do not worship those things. And let us not assume any visual depiction can capture His fullness. The universe declares the glory of our God. The skies proclaim His majesty. That is His handiwork, spoken into existence in all its magnificent wonder – and our God surpasses it all.

May our view of Him remain expansive. Mindful that He is far beyond anything we have seen or known. Seeing Him as He reveals Himself in Scripture, seeing Him as He is perhaps conveyed through artists’ eyes (though we must be careful here – they could portray Him wrongly), and seeing Him as displayed in creation around us. Worshipping always this God who is greater and bigger than our eyes can currently behold and our minds can currently conceive. Our everlasting light, salvation, and glory.

“There is none like you, O LORD;
you are great, and your name is great in might…
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation…
It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses…
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the LORD of hosts is his name.”
Jeremiah 10:6,9-16

 


Deciding on a devotional from In Pleasant Places wasn’t easy. I think we’ll return to this one again soon. For more, check out this one, To Love Him.

 

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